Home > Wicked Hour (Heirs of Chicagoland #2)(3)

Wicked Hour (Heirs of Chicagoland #2)(3)
Author: Chloe Neill

“I just want you out of the loft of an evening now and again.”

I looked at her, brow arched. “Am I interrupting plans? Do we need a ‘sock on the door’ situation?”

“Lord no,” she said, sliding her empty plate onto a nearby cocktail table that was already stacked with them, then dusting off her hands. “If I was any less interested in surfing Chicago’s dating scene, I’d be . . . Well, it’s literally impossible for me to be any less interested.”

That meant both of us spent time in the loft we’d been sharing since I’d come back to Chicago. Because she was as generous as she was talented, it was probably time to fess up.

“He wants me to go with him to Minnesota.”

“Wait. What?” Her eyes popped wide. “That’s huge!”

“Yeah,” I agreed. “It is.”

“You’ll have to talk to your dad about the political ramifications. And Yuen about getting time off.”

I lifted my brows. “I haven’t decided if I’m going.”

She just snorted. “Of course you’re going. Your dad will be thrilled, because alliance. Yuen will be cool with it because you’ll be escorting a shifter to a shifter cultural event. That’s right up the OMB’s alley.”

“That sounds filthy.”

“So it does.” She looked me over, nodded decisively. “You’re going to Minnesota.”

But I was much less sure.

* * *

* * *

It was nearly dawn when we climbed out of the self-driven Auto taxi in front of Lulu’s loft in the Near North Side neighborhood. And we carried a bag of leftover appetizers and a growler of beer we hadn’t been able to turn down.

“How pissed is she going to be?” Lulu asked after we swiped our way into the building and she pulled out keys to unlock the door.

“She” was our third roommate. Eleanor of Aquitaine, a cat of sleek form, black fur, and a refusal to answer to anything shorter than her full name.

She wasn’t technically a demon, as far as we were aware, but she had the same general disposition and attitude.

Door unlocked, Lulu pushed it open slowly. We looked down and found the hallway that led into the loft empty of cat.

“Shit,” Lulu muttered. “That’s not a good sign.”

“No, it’s not.”

“Well, into the fray.”

We went cautiously inside, closed and relocked the door, then peeked around the corner—a vampire and the daughter of two sorcerers checking the battlefield for their frenemy.

We found her on the ledge beside the horizontal stripe of windows, stretched and languid in the light of the lamp we’d left on for her.

Eleanor of Aquitaine opened one green eye, found nothing remarkable in our arrival, and closed it again.

“We’ve gotten the cut direct,” Lulu said, crossing the loft to put the appetizers in the fridge.

“Growler?” I asked.

She looked back at it, grimaced. “I don’t want to drink it. I appreciated the drink I had—like that time I drank that shooter of parsnip soup—but I never need another one.”

“Same,” I said. “At least for the beer. I’ve never had parsnip soup.”

“You didn’t miss much.”

I put the bottle on the counter. “Can you mix it in with your paint? Make something creative for the Pack?”

“Something that smells like coffee and booze and old houseplants had a baby?”

“I mean, if the shoe fits?”

Lulu pulled a stool from the island, slumped onto it. “I am beat.” She ran her hands through her hair, and I could see the smudge of shadows beneath her eyes. “I’m glad the mural is done. Glad the Pack is happy. Glad the party is over.”

“It’s gorgeous, and of course they are, and you’re always glad when a party is over.”

“I’d rather work than make small talk with strangers.” She yawned, glanced back at the windows. “You don’t have much time before dawn. You’d better get packed. Or to bed.”

The horizon was just beginning to blush.

“It would be stupid to go, right? To ride on the back of a motorcycle six hundred miles with the likely future Apex of the North American Central Pack and invade a sacred Pack ceremony?”

“You didn’t mention having your first weekend getaway with a guy you said you were ‘falling for.’”

“There’s that,” I admitted. “I’m not worried about spending time with him. I probably should be, since going out of town is a big step, and we can’t possibly be there yet. We’ve barely been in the same state at the same time.”

“You’ve known each other for twenty years. Your parents are friends.”

“Yeah, but is it a date? Or since he wanted my opinion, is it some kind of detective job?”

“Does it matter? I mean, you’d check both of those boxes.”


“Do you want to go?”

I thought about it. “Yeah. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.”

“Who cares if it’s a good idea? That you want to is reason enough. He can ride the hell out of that bike, and you’re immortal. You’d be the guest of the likely future Apex. You’ve got a degree in Sup sociology, and you get to witness a sacred Pack ceremony. And yeah, because of his traveling, you’re not exactly dating.”

Lulu frowned, chewed the edge of her lip as she considered. “That’s not to say you don’t have to be careful. Having a relationship with a shifter is going to be a challenge. You’ll have to be wary of the Pack. Be smart. Yeah, you’re a vampire, he’s a shifter, and you’re going into his territory. Miranda already hates you.”

“She wasn’t at the party.”

“So I noticed. I haven’t seen her around the building for a few days. Maybe she’s in Alaska, so she’s Jeff and Fallon’s problem.” Fallon was Connor’s aunt, Jeff her husband. They’d led the Pack to Aurora, Alaska, when Connor had decided to stay and fight with us.

Lulu frowned. “And she may be gone, but there were still a few shifters giving you and Connor dirty looks.”

“Noticed that, did you?”

“Hard not to. But you’re a damn vampire, and you aren’t going to be scared away from a man who’s into you because strangers have their panties in a twist.”

I grimaced. “I’m imagining hairy, naked bikers in lacy thongs.”

“Wolves in panties. Panty-wolves.” She waved a hand. “The point is, you’re immortal, and I figure you probably ought to take advantage of that. What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

“I could be staked.”

“That’s pretty unlikely. But we still haven’t gotten to the real reason you should go.”

“Are we nearing the end of this countdown?”

“I’m building dramatic tension. You should go”—she paused, presumably for more drama—“because this is your fucking thing. Getting out there and mixing it up. Not sitting in a damn office or being a Supernatural bureaucrat.”

“Hey,” I said, a little hurt by the comment. “My life got turned upside down, and I got a job in my field in a matter of days. And the Ombuds are good people.” Good, rule-abiding people.

“I know,” Lulu said. “You did the best you could when Dumas left you high and dry, and I’m still angry about that. You didn’t mope. You got a job, and you’re contributing to your community, and you’re helping pay the rent, which I like. But a desk at the OMB is not your destiny, Lis.”

“My destiny?” I asked, a little surprised that she’d come up with something so . . . supernatural. Lulu worked with shifters, had a vampire for a roommate. And usually preferred to leave the woo-woo to us.

“Your destiny. I shouldn’t be an accountant. You shouldn’t be a bureaucrat.”

“What should I be?”

“I have no idea,” she said. “You’re still evolving. You were teenage Elisa, Paris Elisa, transition Elisa, and now . . .” She shrugged. “We’ll see. But you’re going to be a hell of a lot closer to finding it out there—in the woods with the wolf—than in an office writing reports about River nymph dynamics.”

“It was a very good report. There were eighty-seven footnotes.”

“And a graph,” Lulu said, then walked to the couch and lay down on her back, eyes closed. “Woods, wolves, whiskey, and an invitation from the prince himself. This is the kind of thing you don’t say no to.”

“Maybe,” I said, unconvinced. I stood up. “I’m going to bed before the sun does the stake’s work.”

“If you go tomorrow, I’m eating the rest of your yogurt. You buy the expensive stuff.”

“I think that’s entirely fair. But I’m probably not going.”


Of course I was going.

I hadn’t been certain when I woke up. I hadn’t been certain when I’d brushed my teeth in the dark, or drunk a mug of coffee and half a pint of blood, or when Lulu and I practiced sun salutations in front windows that showed the dark city beyond.

I’d once used yoga to help me control the monster. Now I practiced to give it some exercise, to give us both some breathing room. It seemed to help, but it had been very quiet at the OMB, so the theory hadn’t yet been field-tested.

The monster stretched and moved as I did, filling my limbs with a warmth to which I was growing accustomed. Its awareness increased, too, so I had two views of the world, two opinions. Maybe because I’d given some ground, it didn’t try to overtake me, was content to exist beside me.

At least for now.

“Downward-facing shifter,” Lulu had said as we bent over, hands and feet on the floor, butts in the air.

“I don’t encourage you to say that in front of any Pack members.”

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